PREVENTION OF COMMON EYE DISEASES IN ‘PLAIN SIGHT’, SAY OPTHALMOLOGISTS

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Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi experts say all it takes is an annual eye exam to prevent eye problems and vision loss

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Many people in the UAE are living with common eye diseases, such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, yet aren’t aware that they have them. This lack of awareness leads to avoidable productivity loss at school and the workplace, and early retirement due to rapid eyesight deterioration as they age, say experts at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health.

The misconception, says Dr. Scott D. Smith, Chair of the Eye Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, is that people avoid going for eye exams because they believe that they would already know if they had serious vision problems. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is encouraging people to ‘See What Matters’ and protect their eyesight by prioritizing annual eye check-ups and adopting a healthier lifestyle.

“Most people aren’t worried about eye problems until they start having blurry vision. Sometimes, there’s no turning back from the damage that has already taken place. Regular visits to an eye doctor for particular age groups and patient populations can help prevent this issue and allow people to have a better quality of life and be more productive for longer,” he says.

The most prevalent eye diseases among adults in the UAE are glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts. Amblyopia and refractive error are common eye problems among school-age children, while keratoconus may affect both age groups. The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness reports that in 2020, there were an estimated 600,000 people with vision loss in the UAE. Of these, 27,000 people were blind.   

“The message here is clear: these diseases, if caught early, can be treated and managed by the patient to prevent or slow the progression of vision impairment and loss. A comprehensive eye exam every year by an ophthalmologist can determine your personal risk of eye diseases. The specialist can then recommend a prevention and treatment plan based on your age, lifestyle and family history.”

Dr. Smith explains that a simple vision screening, especially after the age of 40, is not enough to detect underlying eye health issues. Patients must get a comprehensive annual check-up that involves a dilated eye exam, a test of visual acuity and ocular motility, testing eye pressure to detect glaucoma, and a slit lamp exam to identify diseases including cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.

“An eye exam can reveal more than just information about a patient’s eye health. We can also identify other undetected health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, an autoimmune disease and even certain cancers. It is very important that patients see the right specialist within a multidisciplinary team for a holistic approach to their treatment.”

In addition to this, he says, patients must focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle to reduce their risk of eye diseases.

“Poor diet and lack of exercise, diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking impact the eyes the same way that they affect our heart. Some studies have also shown that the oxidative stress – the imbalance between the free radicals and antioxidants – caused by smoking can interfere with lens transparency and contribute to macular degeneration.”

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Eye Institute offers patients state-of-the-art ophthalmological care including advanced digital imaging, laser technologies and surgical procedures. Experienced ophthalmologists, orthoptists, nurses, and technicians work together to provide the best possible care for those affected by eye disease.

6 Common Eye Diseases in UAE

  • Amblyopia

Also called lazy eye, amblyopia refers to reduced vision in one eye caused by abnormal visual development early in life. The most common reason for this to happen is when there is a difference between the ability of the two eyes to focus, so the brain begins to rely on only the eye with the better vision. It develops from birth up to the age of seven years.  

  • Refractive Error

A refractive error is a very common eye disorder. It occurs when the eye cannot clearly focus the images from the outside world. The result of refractive errors is blurred vision which, if severe, causes visual impairment. Most refractive errors start in childhood.

  • Keratoconus

This is an eye disease that affects the structure of the cornea, resulting in the weakening and thinning of it. It can cause blurred vision, halos at night, streaking of lights, and sensitivity to light. Keratoconus typically begins in puberty and progresses with age. 

  • Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common causes of vision loss in the working age population. It impacts patients with diabetes who have high blood sugar levels. Poor diabetes management can damage the retina and cause blindness if left undiagnosed and untreated. 

  • Glaucoma

A common eye condition where the optic nerve gets damaged. It is usually caused by a fluid build-up in the front part of the eye, resulting in increased pressure inside the eye. This can lead to vision loss if not diagnosed and treated early. It is the leading cause of blindness in the world.

  • Cataract

An age-related disease, cataract refers to clouding of the eye lens, which develops over time, causing blurry vision. It can be surgically removed to help restore vision.

 About Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi:

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health, is a multispecialty hospital on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is a unique and unparalleled extension of US-based Cleveland Clinic’s model of care, specifically designed to address a range of complex and critical care requirements unique to the Abu Dhabi population.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has the following Institutes: Heart & Vascular, Neurological, Digestive Disease, Eye, Respiratory, Critical Care, Surgical Subspecialties, Medical Subspecialties, Emergency Medicine, Anesthesiology, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Imaging, Quality & Patient Safety, and Clinical & Nursing. In all, more than 40 medical and surgical specialties are represented at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

The facilities at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi combine state-of-the-art amenities and world-class service standards. The hospital is a 394 (expandable to 490) bed facility, with five clinical floors, three diagnostic and treatment levels, and 13 floors of critical and acute inpatient units. It is a physician-led medical facility served by North American/European Board Certified (or equivalent) physicians. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi provides patients in the region direct access to the world’s best healthcare providers and Cleveland Clinic’s unique model of care, reducing their need to travel abroad for treatment.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi – Al Ain began offering select medical services in December 2017. The facility is located on the Tawam Hospital Campus in Al Ain.

About Mubadala Health:

Mubadala Health is the integrated healthcare network of Mubadala Investment Company. Established in 2021, Mubadala Health operates, manages, and develops a portfolio of healthcare assets including: Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Healthpoint, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), Amana Healthcare, National Reference Laboratory (NRL), Capital Health Screening Centre (CHSC), Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre (ADTC), Danat Al Emarat, HealthPlus Diabetes & Endocrinology Center, HealthPlus Family Clinics, HealthPlus Fertility, HealthPlus Women’s Health Center, Moorfields Eye Hospital Abu Dhabi, and a stake in Al Meswak Dental Clinics Group. With a vision to transform the regional healthcare landscape, Mubadala Health sets a new benchmark for the UAE and regional healthcare industry through its state-of-the-art facilities and world-class caregivers who strive to put patients first across its continuum of care. Innovation, research, and education are the foundational pillars of Mubadala Health, supporting the further development of a sustainable healthcare sector in line with the vision of Abu Dhabi and the region.